Saturday, June 21, 2008

Some Reflections on The Wesleyan Church General Conference

The Wesleyan Church is the closest "sister denomination" to my denomination, the Church of the Nazarene. In fact, I believe it is a shameful thing (and given Christ, our Lord's, prayer that we be one, perhaps even a sinful thing) that we have not affected a merger of our two denominations. - But that is another topic.

I, personally, have a number of connections with The Wesleyan Church, through family members and family history, as well as my own ministry opportunities throughout college and seminary.

Earlier this month, The Wesleyan Church held their quadrennial General Conference. During their conference, a few things took place that I would like to reflect (briefly) upon.

First was the retirement of Dr. Earl Wilson from his long-time position as General Superintendent (Picture [on the right] with his brother, Dr. Norman Wilson [on the left], who also retired as Director of Communications and the speaker of The Wesleyan Hour). Dr. Earl Wilson served in church leadership for the denomination longer than anyone else in their history.

I had the opportunity to personally encounter and talk with Dr. Wilson on a few occassions; once, while he preached at the Orleans (IN) Wesleyan Campground. I also have happy memories of his presiding during one of the sessions at the Millennium Event for the Methodists in North America held in Huston, TX.

During the Millennium Event, it was organized so that a Bishop from the various Methodist denominations would preside at each session. Dr. Wilson, as a Wesleyan General Superintendent, presided at one of those sessions. It was during that session that he said (this may not be a complete quote, but it's pretty close), "I wish our people had enough sense to call us bishops." He said that when he is asked what he does, and he responds he is a General Superintendent, people don't know if he works in a factory someplace, or if they should salute him. - I loved that comment (and heartily agree with him!).

I also had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Wilson on our trip to Brighton, England for the 2001 World Methodist Conference. During that trip, I had the idea that, since the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church were (then) moving toward merger, our two denominations (The Wesleyans & the Nazarenes) should seek to send observers to their discussions. - I figured something might come from those observations that might promote the merger of our two denominations.

I told Dr. Wilson about my idea, and told him that I would write our Board of General Superintendents about it. He immediately and enthusiastically expressed his support for such a proposal and indicated that they would certainly do so. - Unfortunately, talks between the AMEZ & the CME came to a standstill before The Wesleyans & Nazarenes had an opportunity to send observers.

In addition to the encounters above, Dr. Wilson graciously agreed to preach at one of our annual Aldersgate Services, while I served as pastor of the Greencastle (IN) Church of the Nazarene.

I was saddened to hear of Dr. Wilson's retirement. I know that he desired for a merger to take place between our two denominations, and he was a very active part of his denomination's involvement with the World Methodist Council. Further, he was quite open and willing to correspond with me about certain issues and opportunites.

My prayer is that God's blessings would be upon Dr. Wilson during his years of retirement.


Katharine said...

"people don't know if he works in a factory someplace, or if they should salute him."


Anonymous said...

Rev. Dr. Earl Wilson taught me systematic theology at United Wesleyan College now merged with Houghton College in central New York State. Congratulations on your retirement years.

I pastored twenty-three years and have two schools of theology in Benin City, Nigeria and in Faisalabad, Pakistan. Commentary has been made on all of the New Testament plus Nebuchadnezzar's Dream from Daniel two. Presently, I am working on the Book of Ezekiel. Pray that both Berrian Bible Institutes will grow for the glory of the Lord and the instruction of the people of God.

We are praying for the salvation of the Islamic people in Pakistan and especially the northern tier of Africa.

The Rev. Dr. I. Ray Berrian, Th.D.
Summa Cum Laude

Paul said...

I understand that this was not the sole intent of your pot, however I see your passion coming through. I too, as a Nazarene, would love to see a merger. I don't see the reason for two separate entities when we are basically the same church just divided over name. How can I as a small unknown minister work towards encouraging such a merger?